If you want to feel like you’re walking through an alien landscape this place has to be top of the list. The thermal vents in the Ayuni Desert really are surreal. When we were there, other than our group, there wasn’t a sign of another soul anywhere.
The most amazing thing about these thermal vents was the total lack of barrier. Ten years on, I wonder if they’re still left completely open for people to wander between with no safety barriers whatsoever. I expect, and hope, they probably are.
If you look to the left, you’ll see a Welshman doing his best fall into boiling water.
Llamas have a bad reputation for spitting on people. I can tell you with absolute certainty that that’s a lie, at least where the llamas photographed are concerned. We walked all amongst these guys and they barely batted an eye at our presence.
This is another of my old photos taken with a point and shoot ten years ago. If you look close you can see little pink blobs in the background, those are flamingos. It’s the only place I’ve ever seen a flock of wild flamingos.
It wasn’t long after taking this photo that our guide woke us up at 2 in the morning and ordered us to get packed and ready to leave. We were supposed to fly from Sucre to Santa Cruz two days later, but he had heard there were protests scheduled in Sucre that would prevent us from entering Sucre if we didn’t leave Ayuni immediately.
After loading onto the bus, bleary eyed, we careened along the rough mountain roads, clinging to the cliffs, towards Sucre. Despite our early departure we didn’t make it back before the roads into the city were blocked by the haphazardly placed vehicles of angry bus and taxi drivers. Our guide went on ahead to assess the situation and came back to inform us that we’d have to complete the last few miles into the city on foot.
Apparently we were lucky it was drivers striking and not farmers because it was less likely that they’d throw rocks at us as we passed (That’s less likely… i.e., not completely out of the question). We were still told to stick together and keep our eyes up as we walked through the barricade. As it turned out, the protestors were content to get us off our bus and make us walk with our packs into the city, and we passed through without incident.
It was definitely a situation where using a backpack trumped a rolling suitcase.
This is another of my old pics shot with a tiny point and shoot. I’d love to go back here again. We were on our way to the Ayuni salt flats when steam appeared on the horizon. Before we knew it we were stepping out of our jeeps in front of gurgling, churning, stinky wasteland like nothing I’d ever seen. Then, our jeeps drove on, to pick us up on the other side. We were actually allowed to walk right through these geysers, not a safety barrier in sight. It was pretty amazing, but you definitively had to watch your step.
Last year I managed to keep the locations of my photos varied pretty well. I was able to switch between images taken from South Africa, Zambia, Rwanda, New York, Canada, Prague, Iceland and Italy. At the moment I’m feeling like all I’ve got are African shots and any Bermuda shots I manage to sneak out and take. So, I’ve decided to share some of my earliest photographs from my first real adventure.
I took a gap-year before heading to University, and got to head down to Bolivia and Peru. That’s where I became a bit of a travel addict and discovered I quite liked taking pictures, and wasn’t too bad at it either. I had a little Olympus point and shoot. I can’t remember the model but it was pretty robust. It survived walking a puma through the Bolivian jungle, 4-treks in Bolivia and Peru, and even sand dune boarding (also known as falling over a lot).
Driving across the Ayuni Salt Flats is one of the most amazing things I’ve ever done in my life. Miles upon miles of whiteness, minimal landmarks, and no signs of civilization. When we were there, a thin film of water over the salt turned the entire place into one giant mirror. It was like driving in the clouds.
This shot is taken from on top of our jeep. In the picture, you can see one of the girls making her way on to the roof and in the one ahead, you can see the luggage rack is already loaded with people. It was an exhilarating ride, but the salt water splashing up turned all of our clothes into crusty messes.